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GitHub probes worker's claims of hostile, sexist office culture

Programmer Julie Horvath quits as unnamed co-founder, spurned engineer put on leave

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

GitHub is investigating allegations of sexism and inappropriate behaviour towards its female employees after one code jockey quit and went public on Twitter.

Software engineer Julie Horvath left the VC-funded site last week, telling world+dog of an unpleasant culture at work.

Horvath used her Twitter profile to allege she had been “harassed by the leadership" of GitHub for two years.”

The programmer spoke to TechCrunch about, among other things, a strange series of run-ins with an unnamed co-founder of GitHub and his wife.

She also claimed to have experienced harassment from a male colleague whom she alleges ripped her code from projects after she turned down his romantic advances.

But, says Horvath, the act that made her leave was her female colleagues hula-hooping in the office to music while the men of GitHub reportedly ogled them “like something out of a strip club”.

GitHub chief executive and co-founder Chris Wanstrath said a “full investigation” had been launched.

Also, the “relevant founder” and the GitHub engineer whom Horvath accuses of harassing her have been put on leave.

GitHub is a six-year-old, venture-funded startup with 10 million code repositories. The company landed $100m in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz.

Horvath signed out after two years with GitHub. After resigning, she told an audience on Twitter that her only regret was not leaving or being fired sooner.

“What I endured as an employee of GitHub was unacceptable and went unnoticed by most,” she said.

“Don’t stand for aggressive behavior that’s disguised as ‘professional feedback’ and demand that harassment isn’t tolerated,” she told others on Twitter.

Horvath told TechCrunch that a person who she described as a "founder" of GitHub, but did not name, had invited her to drinks with his wife and that the wife subsequently made a range of claims: that she informed her husband’s decisions, was responsible for GitHub hires, and operated a network of spies through the company. Horvath claimed the woman warned her against leaving the company and writing anything negative about the startup.

The programmer took the matter to HR, with the result the co-founder accused Horvath of threatening his wife, and, according to Hogarth, "chastised" her and "called her liar".

Horvath claimed the wife then began showing up at the workplace and shadowing her around the company.

In yesterday's response, Wanstrath denied the unnamed founder’s wife had ever had hiring or firing power at the company and said she will no longer be permitted in the office.

Horvath also claimed to TechCrunch that a spurned colleague – another software engineer – had begun ripping her code contributions from projects after she turned down his advances.

The engineer claimed the "final straw" was when a pair of female fellow workers were hula hooping to music at the office and their male colleagues lined up "on one bench facing the hoopers and gawk[ed] at them". ®

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